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What the Fuck is Foraging?

By Xpress Mag Staff

 

very short guide to field editing

Written and illustrated by Nicole Dobarro

With a teasing view of the Golden Gate Bridge peaking out above the fog, my eyes were peeled across acres of foliage while my mind shuffled through the pages of text and photos I read on edible plants. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I separated myself from the whizzing avenues and submerged myself into the “wilderness.” I couldn’t wait to find something to eat.I was nervous. Nervous about being caught, possibly damaging neighboring plants, and poisoning my friends who were coming over for dinner. It was my first time foraging.

There I was in one of San Francisco’s few remaining pockets of greenery, dodging possible eyewitnesses and looking for wild edible plants. I was intrigued by the idea that I could pick my own food and turn it into something delicious.
Foraging can simply mean gathering or harvesting food. It more commonly refers to the act of gathering food from the wild. In fact, it is the most extreme form of eating “local” because you are consuming nature’s gifts directly from the source.
This concept is not exactly new. John Farais, a professional chef and native foods expert told me that foraging goes back to the times of the Native Americans.
However, not until recently has the foraging movement become mainstream. Chefs of gourmet restaurants now forage daily and hipsters have started trying it out too. Interestingly enough, Kevin Feinstein, an author and an avid forager who has been guiding people on wild food walks for about ten years, experienced foraging’s growing popularity around 2009. “I noticed a huge surge of interest after the economy crashed. When everyone started to panic, my business started to double,” says Feinstein.
Getting a free meal sounds incredible, but why would anyone go through the trouble of actually picking it themselves when food can be purchased in pretty little boxes? The reasons are just as diverse as the individuals doing the foraging.
Some foragers grew up picking wild foods and some are just looking for fun and adventure. The foraging community does seem to have a common goal: being conscious of where the food we consume comes from.
Feinstein, who loves hiking but has a background in film, now works with ForageSF as a wild food walk instructor who takes small groups of people into the parks of San Francisco and the East Bay to learn how to forage. In the classes he guides students through the correct way of gathering and cooking wild food. Not until graduating from college did he become aware of how people were treating and consuming food.
“I started to find out about how precarious the nature of our civilization is,” says Feinstein. “Especially when it comes to how unsustainably we’re using the resources of the planet. I became extremely disturbed. I think most of us are kept in the dark about that kind of stuff.”
After his revelation, Feinstein made it a priority to influence how people eat by using his new-found knowledge of horticulture. He attempted to encourage growing your own food by launching a business that installed gardens into backyards.
“Then I realized that people were willing to spend a lot of money, time and effort to make this awesome garden in their backyards, but they wouldn’t eat the food,” says Feinstein. He decided to focus on harvesting what is already available and talk about growing more later.
Unlike Feinstein, Caleb Phillips grew up around the idea that food isn’t something that you buy, it’s something that you grow. But not until college did Phillips realized how much food was being wasted, particularly on the sidewalks of our cities.
“I noticed people didn’t realize that food was growing where they live, outside of their work or their homes. At that moment it become a compelling concept to start mapping out the idea of [Falling Fruit],” says Phillips.
Phillips, who has a background in computer science and wireless networks, founded the website called Falling Fruit with his partner and old college friend Ethan Welty, a glaciologist. The site essentially works like Google Maps where users can search for the location of edible plants by category. Falling Fruit’s data is based on a city or state’s data and user input. If you look carefully, you could even find what’s growing on your block.
While foraging for a meal still seems like a “far out there” concept, the awesome benefits of gathering your own food are undeniable. Phillips, who has made small-time foraging a part of his routine particularly enjoys how foraging connects him to the land. “We don’t realize the world around us. When you go out with the notion of what might be growing right now, it really connects you with what’s going on,” said Phillips.
Feinstein also agrees, “Coming home after a hike to make a meal or nibbling along the way allows you to connect to a place in a whole other way. Wild foods are also better for your health. [Foraged foods] are more nutritious than cultivated foods.” The act and process of foraging is also beneficial to the land.
Farais who works closely with plants native to the Americas and forages for personal benefits says, “Digging up some of the ground airates the soil and creates more seeds, or spreading of spores. Similar to setting land on fire, it levels everything and promotes more growth.”
With the growing awareness of foraging comes growing concerns. These concerns range from amateur foragers destroying the environment, to overharvesting, and the politics of keeping foraging spots secret. The biggest concern seems to be that foragers are going out to the few wilderness spots that are still remaining and are taking the last wild ramps, nettles or anything else they can find.
“If you’re a greedy person that just wants to go out and take everything delicious in the forest and not care about the bigger picture, well screw you. You’re the problem,” says Feinstein. Overharvesting certain spots are also angering old-school foragers who have been visiting the local spots for years.
It’s not just the local foragers who exploit the land but also commercial foragers. Feinstein explains that once a foraged item is placed on the market, the demand remains and companies will do what is necessary to keep up with the demand. Feinstein says that unidentified commercial mushroom foragers, or “shroomers” have allegedly gone into forests and completely raped it of it’s mushrooms. “People have been known to take leaf blowers to the forest floor,” says Feinstein. “But that’s the extreme end of foraging.”
Becoming aware of how plants grow and where to find them generally prevents people from damaging the land in their quest for fresh foods. Wrecking the habitat is a big no-no. “That’s one thing you don’t do if you’re a responsible forager. You leave enough to grow next year and you leave some for the animals,” says Farais.
Feinstein also stressed the importance of picking what nature provides in abundance and what is available regularly. “What is literally out there rotting? What’s going to waste? That’s what you go for,” says Feinstein.
recipe for toastAfter a couple hours of wandering through wild flower patches and swiping through
images of edible weeds on my iPhone, I emerged from my own trail with a handful of nettles, chickweed, radish flowers and the most perfect leaves of Miner’s lettuce. I was excited. I had no idea what I was going to cook with them, but I didn’t really care. I had just gathered my own food in a sustainable way without fail. Even though I did a lot of research before entering the “wild,” or the not-so-wild pieces of land less than a mile away from a road, I was surprised that I found everything I was looking for.
Foraging also felt really damn good. I’m not the kind to enjoy the outdoors. I consider shopping an enjoyable recreational activity, but looking for food was the connecting point between me and nature. And not to get sentimental and sappy, but I’ll never look at that field overlooking the Bay the same again.

 

Breathe: Holistic Health

By Xpress Mag Staff

Junior Monzenat Herrera and other students of Elementary Tai Chi execute Step Back and Repulse Monkey, practiced in the for known as Chuan.

Junior Monzenat Herrera and other students of Elementary Tai Chi execute Step Back and Repulse Monkey, practiced in the for known as Chuan.

 

Written by Ben Tasner Photos by Lorisa Salvatin

Students rest their arms and legs as they lie on the floor of a darkened dance studio. The room is an ocean, and their bodies, like softly breaking waves, unfurl in the moonlight of the half-cracked door. The instructor, like a captain speaking to the ocean, encourages her students to relax.

Vivian Chavez, a professor of health education at SF State, leads her students through relaxation exercises intended to improve body and breath awareness. Lying on the floor, students place their hands on their collarbone, chest, diaphragm, and lower abdomen to observe their bodies as they breathe.

Practicing breath awareness is one of many ways that students can easily maintain and improve their own health. The life of a college student is stressful, which makes simple self-care health techniques invaluable when time and resources are limited.

Many college students are leaving their families for the first time to enter an environment filled with academic and social pressures. Most students juggle jobs, classes, and relationships while battling exams, aspiring for good grades, and holding on to hope that career opportunities await them.

A 2010 study of two-hundred-thousand full-time college freshmen at four-year universities, conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA found that the emotional health of college freshmen has dropped to the lowest level in twenty-five years.

“Students are stressed because they have so many thoughts,” says Jun Wang, professor of holistic health studies at SF State. “They have fears about the future, interpersonal relationships, graduation, and lack of time. When you feel like you need to do things in a compressed amount of time and when you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, you get stressed.”

Over-stressed students are likely to experience depression, anxiety, various physical ailments and a myriad of other health problems. Sometimes it seems best to turn to a medical authority for help and medication, but what if you could improve your health and decrease your stress on your own? Wang says it only takes five or ten minutes to recover from the stress of the day.

But it is. Many simple self-care practices exist with roots in ancient eastern and western practices that have proven beneficial for thousands of years. All of the methods focus on body, mind, and awareness of breath. Some may emphasize one aspect more than another, but to truly increase health and decrease stress it is essential to integrate all three. Too often do we turn to a doctor for a pill or hop on the treadmill- eyes glued to the television, ignoring the connection between body, mind, and breath. Take ten minutes to try one of the holistic self-care practices outlined below and see if you notice a difference in your health.

 

Body: Many physical (somatic) practices are available for students to quickly relax their bodies. Physical relaxation is the first step and perhaps the most direct way to quickly decrease stress.

Wang, who teaches Chinese perspectives in holistic health, Chinese herbs and nutrition, and Chinese body-mind energetics, focuses on the development of qi (pronounced ‘chi’) as a tool to improve and maintain health. Qi can be translated as ‘vital energy’, similar to prana and cit in Hindu religion, mana in Hawaiian culture, lung in Tibetan Buddhism, and ruah in Hebrew culture. Or if you subscribe to the Star Wars philosophy it is like “The Force.”

“If you have strong qi you have a strong defensive system,” says Wang. “You can still be balanced while enduring physical or emotional stress.”

To cultivate qi you need to start by relaxing the body.

“Our mind is like water in a cup,” says Wang, analogizing the human body with a cup. “First you need to stabilize the cup.”

The effects of student life lead to an irregular lifestyle. Many students do not eat properly or sleep adequately and these habits lead to stress, which often manifests physically. Relaxation is a quick and easy way to combat the toll that stress takes on the body.

People commonly stand, sit, and even fall asleep with their shoulders

elevated. It is known as the red light reflex, or startle response, which

many people live with unknowingly. In this condition, a person’s body is hunched, their shoulders are elevated and muscles tensed in response to anxiety and fear.

Erik Peper, a professor of holistic health and director of the Institute for Holistic Health Studies at SF State, attributes this condition to an adaptation made when humans once lived in physical danger and protecting the neck was vital. But in today’s society, danger rarely presents itself in the same manner and the red light reflex has become a liability.

Progressive Relaxation is an easy self-care practice to decrease muscle tension and increase body awareness, hopefully reducing habits like the red light reflex that lead to body stress.

Start by focusing your attention on the muscles in your toes. Tense them vigorously for a few seconds and then release. You should notice a greater level of relaxation in your toes. Slowly work your way up your body, tensing each muscle group individually: your calves, quads, gluteus, abdomen, hands, forearms, upper arms, shoulders, and even all the muscles in your face. Make sure to breathe regularly throughout the exercise.

This exercise draws on what Richard Harvey, a professor of health education at SF State, calls the principle of opposites. He says that you have to first experience the extreme end of an issue to gain perspective on a healthy baseline.

Yoga is a physically focused practice (with mind and and breath components) that many people employ to increase health. With its origins in ancient Indian philosophy, yoga is a mind-body practice that incorporates breathing techniques. The number of Americans practicing yoga increased thirty percent between 2008 and 2012, with more than twenty million Americans currently practicing according to a study by Yoga Journal.

“Yoga is important because it stretches the tendons,” says Wang. “This allows your qi to flow more smoothly.”

Robert Gonzalez, a health education major, says yoga centers him.

“Yoga practice helps with stress, so I do not feel as nervous or stressed as before.”

Tai chi and Qi Gong are two more practices that can increase energy and decrease stress. Tai chi, which began in China as a martial art, is commonly used for health benefits. Qi gong is less aerobic than tai chi, but both exercises involve deliberate movements of the body to stimulate qi. They help develop concentration, presence, and balance yin and yang energies. In Chinese medicine, all illness, whether it is physical or emotional, is attributed to an imbalance of yin and yang energies.

Yin can be equated to the physical nature of existence, and yang the transformative. On a grand scale, earth is the yin and the sun is the yang. Food (yin) becomes energy (yang). According to Chinese medicine, everything we experience is due to an interaction between yin and yang.

By developing qi and balancing yin and yang, tai chi and qi gong are two physical exercises that relax the body and quiet the mind.

“It is very important for you to relax your body,” says Wang. “When your posture is correct then you can relax your mind and cultivate qi.”

It is important to foster physical relaxation, especially for students who spend countless hours sitting in class and in front of computers. Even if you do not embrace any of the practices mentioned above, you should apply some sort of physical practice to your daily routine.

Stretching and massage are other useful tools to relax the body. The holistic health network on campus hosts a massage hour that meets regularly each week. Led by certified massage therapists, students give ten to twenty minute massages free of charge to anyone that stops by.

 

Mind: Many of the mentally focused practices that students can adopt to improve health and decrease stress revolve around various forms of meditation. Meditation is a modest practice that can be accomplished sitting, lying, standing, or walking. A student does not need to become an expert in meditation to experience the benefits. By simply practicing meditation, a person is accomplishing the task.

Meditation can be a closed-focused experience, like focusing on the flame of a candle, or more open-focused, like observing thoughts and judgments.

Meditation techniques like mantra meditation, mindfulness meditation, Zen Buddhist meditation, and others derived from religions and spiritual practices. Many people use them today to increase health without religious association.

Previous research has found that meditation can reduce depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. More recently, a 2011 study published in the journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, found that meditation also increases gray matter concentration in the left hippocampus of the brain. The left hippocampus is involved in learning, memory, and emotional control.

Chris Hambelton, a holistic health student at SF State, says that mindfulness meditation has helped him observe when his mind is judging.

“I notice when my thoughts are beating on me for no reason,” he says. “(Meditation) helps you learn to be a better friend for yourself.”

He’s referring to the all-too-common act of self-judgment. Too often people degrade themselves with judgments they would never cast on another person, and the negative self-talk has serious health repercussions. Dwelling on past mistakes and fearing the future is unhealthy. Depression is a result of focus on the past, and anxiety is a focus on the future. Meditation helps draw the practitioner back to the moment. Learning to observe the present and decrease thoughts about the past or future has enormous health benefits.

Wang says she experiences stress just like her students. She practices meditation every morning and experiences wonderful benefits. It helps her still her thoughts.

“I can maintain a calm way to deal with an insane world,” she says.

Components of meditation include imagery and visualization. By imagining what you want and visualizing it as a reality you will increase optimism and experience a direct physiological benefit.

Imagery and visualization can be practiced as part of meditation, or as individual exercises. Many professional and Olympic athletes use visualization prior to performance to increase results. Researcher Angie LeVan says that the brain acts similarly during visualization as it does during the actual physical act, which means that the brain is training during visualization.

Breath

Perhaps most integral in self-care is breath because it is a doorway between the conscious and the unconscious. Breath is something we can intentionally control and it is also a natural which cause a person to hold their breath unconsciously. Shallow breathing limits the body’s ability to carry oxygen to cells, and in turn can make a person feel short of breath and anxious.

When a child is acting out of control they are told to count to ten, a strategy that draws on the principles of deep breathing.

“When you count to ten, usually by five, your mind and reactivity has changed due to awareness of breath,” says Chavez.

Sabreen Khalil, a psychology major at SF State, uses breathing techniques before an exam. “It helps me bring my stress level down so that I can focus on my test because it really cools your body down and brings you back to the present.”

Whitley Lucas, a health education major at SF State, has applied deep breathing to her daily routine. “To actually breathe and relax your mind is so powerful because it can help reduce stress that may be bothering you,” says Lucas. “In my down time during the day I do stretches and breathing techniques to get my mind and body together.”

In addition to his research on the red light reflex, Peper is interested in the physiology of breathing. In his book “Make Health Happen,” he wrote that extended computer use and long hours of poor posture exacerbate poor breathing habits. He helps students train their bodies to relax so that they can perform better on exams.

He says that people who habitually engage in shallow chest breathing may experience panic and symptoms associated with hyperventilation. He recommends students to breathe with their diaphragm to decrease tension, increase oxygen flow, and improve their test scores.

To test your breathing habits, start by placing a hand on your chest and your abdomen. Peper says that a deep breath should begin with a full expansion of the diaphragm, followed by expansion of the lungs and chest. Peper and Chavez encourage students to practice deep breathing by finding a quiet place and counting each breath. Chavez says that counting brings awareness to breath and limits distracting thoughts.

When she has trouble sleeping, Chavez counts her breaths up to ten and then back down. She is usually asleep before she gets back to one.

In the darkened dance studio she wants students to take what they need from the breathing exercise. Occasionally someone falls asleep during the practice, which is fine with her.

“Every direction that I give you is an invitation only,” says Chavez quietly, embracing the darkness. “If you want to do something different, do it. This is your class.”

Sometimes what is needed most is sleep. It is a perfect combination of body, mind and breath relaxation.

Note: Many other self-care practices exist that can quickly increase a student’s health. Stop by the Holistic Health Learning Center, in HHS 329, and check out the unique library of resources.

An Undocumented Dream

By Xpress Mag Staff

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Undocumented SF State student Jessica Iniguez in the midst of other students on campus wearing her club IDEA’s “Education is a human right” shirt.

Story By Nicole Crittenden Photo By Jenny Sokolova

Nestled between the protective arms of her mother, one-year-old Jessica Iniguez and her parents say goodbye to their home in Jalisco as they depart on a thirty-six hour bus ride across Mexico. They are headed to a safe house in Tijuana where they can fill their bellies with food and rest before beginning the next phase of their journey. Iniguez, with her innocence, is unfazed by the intensity of the situation.

The air is still as the coyotes wait for the sun to go down before leading them into the dark unknown. Without a clue as to where they are, Iniguez’s parents are pointed in the direction of the city lights on the horizon. With the dreams of a better future guiding them through the vast Sonoran Desert, they set off on foot towards United States border, an invisible line in the sand. A line that gives them hope of their dreams coming true.

Twenty-three years later, Iniguez is a transfer student at SF State majoring in business with hopes of becoming an entrepreneur. Her story is similar to millions of students living in the United States. Her parents brought her here illegally with the hopes of creating a better life for her and her siblings. Despite growing up in Santa Cruz and identifying as an American, Iniguez is not a U.S. citizen.

“I always knew I was undocumented. I knew I was different,” says Iniguez.

Iniguez’s parents first migrated to a rough neighborhood in Oakland, where her older sister was born. Feeling isolated, afraid, and finding out that she was pregnant with Iniguez, her mother made the choice to move back to Mexico to be with her family, while her father stayed in the U.S. to work.

Iniguez was born on April 17, 1989 in Tepatitlán, Jalisco. After she was born, her father returned to Mexico. Her parents were then faced with making an incredibly hard decision. Eighteen months later, Iniguez crossed the border with her family, leaving her home country behind. She has not recrossed the border since.

“There are things that you are told growing up,” says Iniguez. “That you belong somewhere else, but I don’t know that home. It has never been something that I knew.”

Iniguez’s parents migrated to Santa Cruz to raise their family. In her neighborhood there were a handful of children that were undocumented so it was not something to be ashamed of, and she was not treated differently by her peers. Not until high school did her legal status become an issue.

Once you turn sixteen in the U.S. you can obtain a work permit. Because Iniguez knew she was not a legal citizen, she knew that she would not be able to get one. Despite this, she wanted to work so she looked into a tutoring job at her high school, assuming that it did not require special paperwork.

When Iniguez went to talk to the teacher in charge of tutoring, they told her to come back with her student ID and her social security card. A feeling of anxiety and frustration washed over her body, but she kept a calm composure.

“It is this feeling of panic, because you are panicking on the inside, but nobody knows,” says Iniguez. She was not sure if she should tell him the truth. Instead, Iniguez left and was never given the opportunity to tutor at her high school.

Because Iniguez was brought here at such a young age, she was easily able to assimilate into American culture. When situations of her legal status would arise, it would prove as an unwanted reminder that she was still undocumented, she was still an immigrant, and that she was inevitably going to be treated differently.

“All of my life I have been trying to offset my status,” says Iniguez. “I did not want to be associated with an illegal immigrant because I did not see myself that way.”

Iniguez graduated high school in the top five percent of her class and was guaranteed acceptance into all UC’s. Large letters would arrive in the mail with beautiful brochures advertising their schools. Iniguez knew that the only way she would be able to go to college was through financial aid and student loans, both of which she could not obtain because she was an undocumented student. In high school she was not informed by her counselors that she would be able to apply for AB 540 status or that there were scholarships that did not require citizenship.

“By that time I realized that I needed to find a different way to get through college,” says Iniguez.

After doing research on the Internet, she found scholarships for immigrant students and first learned more about AB 540. Even though the bill had been passed six years before, Iniguez never heard about it from her high school and community college counselors. She printed the AB 540 forms and submitted them by herself and was approved to be able to pay in-state tuition.

Assembly Bill 540 was passed in 2001 by Governor Grey Davis and allowed undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at California postsecondary education institutions. This exponentially lowered the cost of tuition for undocumented students and made the dream of college a reality.

“You grow up all your life being denied certain privileges because of your status, but you do them anyways,” says Iniguez.

During the time Iniguez was going to Delta College, a community college in Stockton, the out-of-state tuition was around three hundred dollars per unit. A typical three unit class could have cost her close to a thousand dollars. With AB 540 status, she was able to pay in-state tuition, which allowed her to pay only twenty dollars per unit.

Iniguez went to community college for a few years and was able to find work with local organizations and save money to be able to make the initial transition to SF State.

Iniguez was legally able to receive financial aid through the California Dream Act, which was passed in 2011. This law applies to immigrant children who were brought to the U.S. without proper documentation before the age of sixteen. Without financial aid, the dream of a college education is unattainable for many students.

Another law that greatly helped Iniguez was the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This law, signed by President Obama, allowed Iniguez to apply for employment authorization. Iniguez would no longer have to worry about finding work. This way she was able to make money and support herself in San Francisco.

“If I could just be here and belong here, that is all that would matter to me and that is what DACA did,” says Iniguez. “It just lets me be here without fear.”

Without her AB 540 status, the California Dream Act, and DACA, Iniguez does not believe she would be where she is today. Iniguez chose to go to SF State because she saw it as a sanctuary with like-minded people; those who would not judge her for her status, and a place where she could find the support to be herself.

“AB 540 students enrich our campus and bring a variety of different viewpoints and backgrounds,” says Professor Teresa Carrillo, chair of Latina/Latino studies.

One of the biggest things that has helped Iniguez tell her story is the club on campus called IDEAS, which stands for improving dreams equality access success. It is a place for undocumented students and their allies to come together and support each other, as well as provide resources for each other. Founded in 2008, it has evolved into a club that focuses on creating leadership within their members.

“It is very important to have this organization alive because there are a lot of undocumented students on our campus,” says Yadira Sanchez, president of IDEAS.

More than anything, they provide the emotional support that Iniguez and other students on campus need. For them, it is important to have a community who understands where they are coming from and the challenges they face.

“We try to showcase all of our members’ talents in different ways, which is empowering,” says Sanchez.

Iniguez is the marketing officer of IDEAS and uses the skills she has learned in the classroom to bring awareness about the club. She decided to major in business because she learned from a young age that she was going to have to rely on herself.

For her, independence means building her own business and learning how to make money for herself instead of depending on other people to give her a job, especially because of her immigration status. Education gives her the push to prove herself in the world and is something that nobody can take away from her.

“I see the future how I have always seen it,” says Iniguez. “You give me an obstacle and I will find a way around it.

Iniguez’s biggest dream is to one day be able to say that she was undocumented, and still was able to make a place for herself in this country.

On Silk and Ink

By Xpress Mag Staff

One of Audrianna's transparencies of  of a bird's skull.

One of Audrianna’s transparencies of of a bird’s skull.

By Julian Lim
Photos by Lorisa Salvatin

Only half of the emerald neon sign is on. A grouping of the center letters, which in whole spell out “Mission Cultural Center,” is nearly invisible in the sunset-darkened Mission District of San Francisco.

The lobby beneath the sign is empty. A soft rhythmic thud pulsates through the ceiling. There is no one around except for a woman selling one-day class tickets behind the Plexiglas window.

“The screen printing class is on the fourth floor,” she says. “Take the elevator up.”

The elevator only goes up to three. As the arm-length industrial lift reaches its final ascent, the small room fills with muted noise heard below, only for it to be revealed as the doors slide open. The air is thick with the slams of foot stomps, trumpet riffs, and a heavy bassline that pounds through your chest.

To get to the other side, where the stairs to the fourth and final floor are located, you must navigate pass the Tuesday night Flamenco and advanced Mexican Folk Dance classes, the open door hovering parents, and through the narrow incandescently lit hallways.

At the top of the steps and to the right of a six-feet-tall screen-printed anatomical skull is the Mission Grafica—the thirty-seven-year-old graphics studio with a long-standing history of making
political posters for the Mission.

Up here—in the attic space of a building, which used to be Shaff’s Furniture Company,—the red wooden floorboards covered with ink splotches are bouncing to the thumping soul of the center.

The Grafica’s print shop holds five black-painted workstations adorned with hinge clamps, which are used to hold down the silkscreen frames with the burned design. Around the shop, three metal drying stations with forty to fifty racks are leafed together like pages in a book; they are filled with layers of flatstock poster prints, and fabrics from past workshops and classes.

In the corner between two of the drying stations, an out of commission screen-printing machine sits with used transparencies piled underneath the ripped yellow silk screen. There is a six-by-six-foot backlit power washing station and a dark room around the corner where the photo emulsion is applied for image burning.

In nearly every facet of the shop, hundreds of ink-stained silkscreens in aluminum and wooden frames are stacked on the floor, shelves, and dolly carts tagged with marked masking tape.

“The ethos of printmaking is supposed to be about access,” says Amy Diaz-Infante, one of Mission Grafica’s screen printing instructors. “That is why I love a shop like the Grafica.”

Diaz-Infante has only been teaching at the Mission Grafica since July, but has been involved with the shop for years. When she received her master’s in fine arts, she learned how to screen print at the Grafica.

“You can come in without knowing anything or you can be a veteran printmaker and it does not matter,” she says. “We are all here printing in the same space and learning from each other.”

Mission Grafica is in the realm of screen printing that is only the starting line of what this art medium has to offer. From here, its world is a scatter shot of different characters, ideas, and aesthetics. The posters created capture the essence in which it is meant to pay tribute to, whether it is a band, a movie, an emotion, or a movement. But regardless of which direction screen printing floods into, it seeps back down to its truest sense of what Diaz-Infante and many others believe: access.

It is Thursday night in the Tenderloin. People are shuffling in and out from one gallery to the other; complementary PBRs and Gnarly Head Merlot in plastic glasses in the left gallery in the back, prints for purchase in the right gallery, with an unrelated hair salon nestled in between.

This is Spoke Art Gallery on Sutter Street, where just a few hours earlier, people lined down the block for the gallery doors to open at six so they can receive their free exclusive Tim Doyle print.

This is the Austin-based screen print artist’s third solo show at Spoke Art in the last three years. Each time, it is the same theme: “Unreal Estate.” Doyle, whose resume includes producing work for the widely popular Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, pays homage to television pop culture by reimagining iconic landscapes seen on the mini screen. Spoke Art Gallery Owner Ken Harman says that with this type of show, the appeal is universal.

When Harman was manning the drinks station in the left gallery, an older black man with a grey beard approached him to top off his wine glass. After their small conversation, he realizes that the exchange just proved his point.

“That dude right there, perfect example,” Harman says. “He does not know what Adventure Time is, but knows what Sanford and Sons is. That is a pretty big cultural divide between those two things. This show has been able to draw that dude who knows what Sanford and Sons is, as well as some kids who knows what Adventure Time is, and they all come together and they all appreciate it. You would not get that if this were a normal art show, which is usually a little more targeted, but with popular culture you get a little bit of everything.”

In this particular show, a little bit of everything includes the exterior of Saul Goodman’s law office and the Red Keep castle. It includes the Smurf’s village, the Munster’s house, and Pee Wee’s Playhouse. It also includes The First Church of Springfield and the Robot Arms Apartment complex.

One of the patrons of the gallery opening noticed a similarity through the use of iconography employed by famous artists of decades past, particularly Andy Warhol.

“It seems to me that the culture is repeating in visual art, but it’s doing it through illustration, and a little bit of fine art,” says Evren Bilgilham, who is also an Academy of Arts student. “These days, our iconography is visual media. It’s film. It’s television. It’s online. It’s a cycle. It’s the same type of thing that was going on in the seventies, just a completely different medium, and a different visual motif.”

And with free exhibit openings like this at Spoke Art Gallery, it is more than just appreciating the cool artwork on the walls as Harman explains. It is also the actuality of taking a print or two home.

“That’s something people aren’t used to,” Harman says. “They aren’t really aware that you can do that, that you can walk into an art gallery and go home with really cool art for under a hundred bucks. So the price is definitely nice.”

Harman started out as an art blogger, writing about the street art scene while working at Whole Foods as a bagger. But through a sequence of events, which the San Francisco Chronicle quoted Harman describing it as a “happenstance and coincidence and serendipity,” it led to Harman opening Spoke Art Gallery in 2011 “with just sort of a dream and a credit card.”

“Historically, if you want to look at the aesthetics of the Bay Area,” Harman says. “The Mission is cool, Barry McGee and Margaret Kilgallen, the birth of the SF street art scene, and a sort of folk art scene, definitely informs the aesthetic here, more so than it does in other cities.

“It is almost a sense of community in here. I feel more than there is other cities. I think that is in part because there is a large number of creatives, but also not a large market. We are all sort of in the same boat together. New York has a large number of creatives, but also a very booming art market that San Francisco does not have. So you do not get that sense of camaraderie between artists, and I feel it is a little more competitive in places like New York and L.A.”

That idea of camaraderie and community is not far off. Though the Tim Doyle’s Spoke Art show was a solo venture, the gallery also curates shows that feature a wide-array of artists focusing on a theme. One such theme is the annual Bad Dads show, which is based upon the works of film director Wes Anderson. Outside of the walls of Spoke Art, there’s even The Rock Poster Society in the Bay Area. This is a nonprofit organization that aims to preserve and promote the long-standing relationship between music and the graphic art.

The Rock Poster Society are like the keepers of the crypt,” says Oakland-based screen print artist Matt Leunig. “They keep the flame burning for the old school stuff.”

Founded in 1998, the organization holds an event for artists and poster enthusiasts to meet each other, and buy and sell posters in San Francisco each year. Leunig, who did his first The Rock Poster Society Festival of Rock Posters show six years ago, says that most of the old school poster artists who created posters for venues like the Fillmore in San Francisco are still a part of the group.

“You will be sitting across from someone like Stanley Mouse,” Leunig says. “It’s insane because you are in the same show with the old school guys who started it all, who are very humble, and cool in this very low-key atmosphere.”

Like all of the artists in The Rock Poster Society, Leunig’s work primarily consists of gig posters—posters created with the sole purpose of promoting a band playing a venue  ona particular night. Some of the musicians he has worked with include Ween, Erykah Badu, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and the Pixies.

“The art form of screen printing is really hot right now,” Leunig says. “There’s been a resurgence of going back to hand drawn, hand made artwork. It’s a digital backlash. You can find a cool picture and save it as a JPEG. But if you have that same image, that you know somebody made by hand, it means more because when you look at it, it’s a piece of art.”can find a cool picture and save it as a JPEG. But if you have that same image, that you know somebody made by hand, it means more because when you look at it, it’s a piece of art.”

Berkeley-based screen print artist John Howard, who is also a gig poster artist in The Rock Poster Society, agrees that there is a digital backlash as Leunig describes.

“There’s no longer anything tactile related to the music” Howard says. “People wanted something to replace the LP that you used to hold while you listen to the music. It’s kind of hard to say or expand it from that, but it has gotten crazy in the last several years.”

Howard has created work for bands like Sonic Youth, Queens of the Stone Age, and Sublime. Despite mass producing their work by the hundreds and selling it for less than three digits, the resurging screen printing medium has seen a new audience give rise: the collector. Howard says he does not play to collectors that much.

“I don’t want to do a hundred posters and be at the bottom of some collector’s drawer,” Howard says. “I’d rather have it go to people at the show that love the band. That’s why I do it. I want it to be on their wall because they love that band. I’d rather have it take two years to sellout of a poster than have most of it go to that.”

Leunig, at one point, had to be much more particular as to who gets a special black and white String Cheese Incident print of his. The posters were meant for children to color on their own, after which their parents send back photos to Leunig. Unfortunately, Leunig caught someone trying to flip the poster on Ebay.

One of the other effects of the resurgence is Flatstock. This is a poster convention of sort that the American Poster Institute organizes to feature artists around the world on a convention platform. The American Poster Institute—like The Rock Poster Society—is another nonprofit organization that serves the poster community, but on a broader scale.

“There should at least be a Flatstock here,” Howard says. “I know they tried a couple of times, but they haven’t been that good for a couple of different reasons, but not because they couldn’t be, mostly just logistic kind of reasons. San Francisco should be the epicenter of psychedelic art. It could be and have a great history to back it up.”

Both Howard and Leunig attended Flatstock at the weeklong South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas in March.

Oakland-based artist Jason Munn also attended Flatstock this year. However, compared to Leunig—who uses large fields of color a key line to keep everything connected—and Howard—whose works have a traditional psychedelic rock poster look that’s quintessential to San Francisco—Munn is the complete opposite.

“When I first started, my stuff had this minimal look, even though it doesn’t look like it does now, but you can tell,” Munn says. “Especially with the way I work with type and stuff. It was quiet and I like quiet. And a lot of the bands that I was doing stuff for were very quiet bands. This was the kind of stuff that I was attracted to. And minimal, definitely, you can describe some of the bands like that.”

Some of the bands he has worked with includes Death Cab for Cutie, The Postal Service, and Phantogram. Munn has even been commissioned to create a line of retail projects for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Artist Series in 2011.

“I really like mid-century design work; simple and economical, straight lines, minimal use of color. Very un-rock and roll for the most part,” Munn jokes. “With John Howard and Matt, I love that they have that traditional feel. They all require a different way of thinking. I can’t think the way those guys think. I’m always kind of amazed about what these people do.”

These people, and so much more, make or break those in the screen printing universe. They come from different backgrounds and it reflects in what they produce, whether it is a band poster, a gallery, instruction, or appreciation. The audience, to which they serve, may not ever overlap.

But regardless of the theme or subject matter scraped through the flooded yellow silk screen and on to the flatstock poster, each of these artists, instructors, enthusiasts, and gallery owners essentially believe in the idea behind why they print, sell, collect, or teach. It is the same ethos learned from the screen print shop in an attic in the Mission.

“Screen printing is supposed to be the most democratic art form; it is about people having access to information and to work,” Diaz-Infante says. “It’s not like only one person can only own this one piece. No, you make five hundred and everyone can own it and see it.”

The Beginning and End as Far as Rap Goes*

By Xpress Mag Staff

Shako brings up one of his projects onto the computers of BAVC.

Shako brings up one of his projects onto the computers of BAVC.

Written by Katie Mullen Photos by Lorisa Salvatin

To define hip-hop as a musical genre and culture is to make sense of an oxymoron. The true essence of hip-hop resides on the continuum between intention and interpretation. Hip-hop reflects, and always will reflect, the people that surround it.

Drastic differences between what hip-hop started out as, what it is now, and where it is headed, make it even more difficult to define. To genuinely attempt to understand hip-hop culture, it is necessary to explore all three phases.

The story goes that in 1973, DJ Kool Herc and his sister threw a back-to-school party that featured the sound of hip-hop and it exploded as a culture. The sound gained popularity so artists began to take songs with percussive breaks and isolate those portions; this became a distinct hip-hop sound.

For a while, hip-hop remained beats and beats only. Then, rappers would write rhymes over them and perform at house parties or battles.

Hip-hop rapping is a way of communicating African-American oral tradition. Therefore, this form of expression was dubbed “black culture”. Hip-hop is a culture because it is more than just a musical style. It extends to breaking, emceeing, graffiti art, deejaying, beatboxing, street fashion, street language, and street knowledge. In other words, its a way of life, not just a way of making music.

In this society, calling hip-hop ‘black culture’ gets a little tricky. There are many that agree with the statement whole-heartedly and there are also many that disagree with it.

DJ and hip-hop activist, Davey D. says, “using the word ‘culture’ is a slippery slope. How expressions are used in hip-hop makes it black culture. But in this day and age, what is culture? People come in and out of culture all the time.”

Hip-hop had a political and social force propelling it forward; it was not something that was whimsically created that could feature any subject. It was an open forum that was thought- provoking and meaningful for those listening.

Adissa, the so-called bishop of hip-hop, wrote an article for daveyd.com that says,  “For anyone to even try to insinuate that hip-hop is not of a complete and unique African or African-American tradition is an insult to everyone who truly loves the art.” He goes on to clarify that all races enjoy the music today but that in the beginning, it was exclusively the black community.

SF State student Sheni Olora, better known as Shako Shake, feels differently about labeling hip-hop as black culture. “Even though hip-hop was created by black people, I don’t feel it’s just black culture. So many artists and producers of other races have contributed to the progression of the genre through different styles of flow,” says Olora.

He continues to explain, “Hip-hop is a global culture and has spread so far from its origination in America. The hip-hop culture has evolved too largely across the world for it to be bounded by one race.”

SF State student and bboy, Joey Kao puts records on the turntable in his room on Feb. 27.

SF State student and bboy, Joey Kao puts records on the turntable in his room on Feb. 27.

So what is hip-hop today, and what will hip-hop be in the future? The most crucial thing to think about is interpretation. An artist’s intention is completely separate from how an audience takes it in and what emotions are evoked within them. With a corporate centered society at hand, hip-hop has gone through a multitude of changes. It is much more restricted than it use to be. In the beginning stages of hip-hop, at its grass-root origins, the music was a shared commodity.

If you heard a beat you liked, you would write lyrics to go with it and you would perform it. In the same sense, if you liked a phrase from a rap, you were free to use it in your work with a different beat. This is what Davey D. refers to as open source. Today, this does not happen because of copyright laws and music labels trying to own and monopolize pieces of work.

Corporations have changed the original intentions of hip-hop not meaning to be owned. It is not supposed to be limited and it is not supposed to be defined. Hip-hop is universal, the coming together of the human race, no matter their racial background.

The open source way of creating hip-hop music is black culture. It is the black community that believed in the culture and lifestyle of the music banning together and being resourceful in order to create something new and worthwhile.

As hip-hop progresses, there will always be battles between creating something real and creating something that will sell. Do artists remain true to themselves or do they brand themselves to gain popularity?

The future of hip-hop is promising. The sound is changing while still remaining true to its roots. Traditional hip-hop has an easy to follow beat that governs the genre. The beat consists of a few notes repeated; creating a rhythm that becomes almost hypnotic. But in recent years, specifically the past five years, it has evolved.

Artists such as Jay Z and Kanye West have been two very key players in changing the hip-hop game. They have both explored and tinkered with the music, attempting to nail down exactly how far they can push the envelope and still have their work accepted by the hip-hop community. Kanye is known for his beats which are catchy and draw in the audience. While on the other hand, Jay Z is more of a lyrical master.

“Today, even in sampled old-school hip hop music, the use of the heavy 808 drum sound, snappy snares, and fast stop-action percussion has dramatically changed the sound of hip hop,” says Olora. “I feel in the earlier 2000’s producers like Timbaland used more natural sounds such as real pianos, live-recorded drums, sampled MPC drums, beatboxing, and analog synthesizers. With today’s hip hop producers having the capability of fully computer-based music production, I personally feel today’s music has more emphasis on its processing; the amount of technical effects used to enhance its sounds.

As hip-hop progresses, you can expect more artists to continue playing with the percussion breaks in their songs, adding layers of new technology, and to also incorporate other genres. For example, hip-hop artists have begun mixing jazz and soul sounds with their breaks.

The genre is one that will never stop evolving. It reflects the people who support it, the people that believe in it. So in reality, the music and the culture are not changing, the human race is changing and the music is victim to our unpredictability.

Hip-hop culture is not developing in a vacuum; the concept of the genre is not linear and explainable. It is an uncharted territory and a genre that is itching to be expanded and explored.

*Headline is a lyric from the rapper Nas’ song “Nas is Like.”

Fur and Loving: Unzipping the SF Furry Culture

By Xpress Mag Staff

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“Shaman” by Patricia Wilson, Furry Artist.

Written by Chantel Genest

A purple fox is spotted walking upright on Harrison Street in the Mission District. It halts at the corner, greeted with hugs from a brown teddy bear, a silver wolf, and a neon bunny just outside a dark and narrow cavern blaring electronic dance music. Passersby scoff at the sight, but a few curious individuals question what the hell they just witnessed.

Snooping inside, the outcasts find themselves welcomed by total strangers left and right. Some shrouded by mascot-like costumes, some with little black ears and purple tails, or many that look perfectly normal.

Every month a group of Bay Area residents gather at The Stud Bar in San Francisco for Frolic, an event for the furry community. They drink, meet new friends, and dance their tails off, literally. Furries, a growing subculture supported around an extensive love of anthropomorphic art, was once secluded to chat rooms and forums on the Internet. The community has grown and now hosts sizeable conventions and meet-ups all over the world.

To the ‘mundane’—as furries have dubbed the outsiders to their community—the concept of furry fandom has typically been centered on a sexual fetish and nothing more than people dressing up in ‘funny animal’ costumes to do strange and erotic things. But the furry culture is made up of a vastly diverse group of people with individual perspectives and varying interests of creative expression. The only genuine bond connecting the full scope of the furry community is a common love for ‘funny animal’ characters in art.

A hub for diversity, it is no surprise that San Francisco has formed a massive furry community of its own that has brought furries from around the Bay Area together to socialize with like-minded people and share like-minded art. The Bay Area has thousands of furries who create and take pleasure in furry music, furry drawings, and the flashy fursuits that have become the public’s main representation of the fandom.

“It is a culture that really embraces individual creation,” says Fremont furry artist Patricia “Bastek” Wilson, 26. “Personal expression is not something most people get in their lives and I think it is one of the biggest draws to the furry community—the ability to express parts of themselves that cannot be expressed otherwise.”

ANTHROPOMORPHIC ART

Anthropomorphic characters are by no means a new concept. In layman’s terms, they are anything non-human that possess distinctive, human-like traits. Humans have a long history of anthropomorphizing animals and nature, both for religious idolization and as metaphorical outlets to tell stories and teach morals. Ancient cultures have used anthropomorphic animal characters in their art and spirituality, and the role of these in literature can be traced at least back to Aesop’s fables in 500 B.C.

“In older cultures, there was not so much separation between people and nature,” says Wilson. “As religions progress in time you see less and less connection with the earth and animals that we share it with.”

The term ‘funny animals’ came in to context in the early 1900s to distinguish them from more realistic animal characters such as Lassie.

Donald Duck, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Winnie the Pooh are just a few notable furry characters that gave us comfort and entertainment as we ached to find our place in the world as kids. Children’s books, TV shows and movies have become so dominated by anthropomorphic characters, that many of our fondest childhood memories include furry art, whether we know it or not.  For the people in the Furry Fandom, the fascination of cartoon animals and giant, life-sized mice at Disneyland never faded.

DRAWN FURRY ART

In 1985, Mark Merlino and Rod O’Riley held one of the first parties designated for furries at Westercon, a large science-fiction convention. The party gathered artists to share collections of furry art and short stories, along with a viewing of Warner Bros. short cartoons and more. This themed party influenced Merlino and O’Riley to hold the first Furry Convention in 1990, ConFurence, which paved the way for furry conventions and meetups to sprout up throughout the nation.

Today, San Jose is home to one of the largest annual furry conventions, Further Confusion. It was the first event sponsored by the non-profit Anthropomorphic Arts and Education, and continues to showcase art and honor creative individuals in the furry world.

“It started through looking for different characters that I had grown up with and seeing the way that different artists worked with it,” says John “Sticker Stealer” Henifin, 27, of San Francisco. “Like Disney and Warner Bros., the characters have a certain style. People will take those same characters and develop them into their own style, so it was recognizable, but also something you had never seen before.”

Henifin enjoys creating graffiti-style pieces that he gives away or shares online at FurAffinity.net, the largest ongoing website for the promotion of furry art. When he isn’t doing his own work, he is out in the city peeling sticker art off buses and stops signs, which he saves in a massive collection with hundreds of binders at home and online at Stickerstealer.com. For him, the sharing and collaborative efforts made in the fandom are something spectacular.

“The artists tend to push together and play off each others ideas,” says Henifin. “Sometimes one person will start drawing a character and they all work on it until they have this big masterpiece.”

Many furries will wear a badge around their neck at meetups and conventions so that others will recognize them from online. A big market for furry artists is actually bringing to life fursonas, a furry’s animal alter ego name.

“The artists are deeply involved in the culture by helping people realize their characters. It is really a joy to help bring something like that to life,” says Wilson. “It used to be the standard price for a badge was fifteen to twenty dollars. Now it is anywhere from fifteen to fifty dollars depending on the artist.”

Wilson has been a furry artist for eleven years and has used the money to pay her way through college. She says it was the art and the surrounding community that brought her to the fandom when she was first introduced to it on yerf.com, a then PG-rated furry art site.

“For me, furry originally had nothing to do with adult art. I did not recognize that it was part of the fandom,” says Wilson. “It actually came as a shock to me initially, and then I understood why furries were the butt of everyone’s jokes.”

Wilson had a hard time with the adult artwork she began seeing throughout the fandom, finding herself uncomfortable with those themes. But to her, there was no difference between the erotica in furry and standard pornography. She found the furry culture at a time when she was questioning her life and growing out of the religion in which she was raised.

“Eventually the positivity and openness surrounding sexuality helped me to understand and become comfortable with my own sexual nature,” says Wilson.

For other Bay Area furries, art was something they had been doing all their lives before even knowing about the fandom. Kriss “Samoy Wolf” Andrews*, was president of the anime club at her high school when it was brought to her attention that her art looked a lot like furry art.

“I do a lot of cartoony and anime style drawings,” says Andrews. “I mostly draw felines and canines. That is what people identify most with because of our pets growing up.”

Like many Bay Area furry artists, Heather Rose, 28, “Lady Duck,” makes money through commissions for furry drawings. Producing works of art for other furries allows her to invent never before imagined scenarios in her illustrations.

“I have always drawn people and animals separately, but combining them is just, fun,” says Rose. “It is nothing more complicated than that.”

FURRY MUSIC

With popular music videos like Ke$ha’s “C’mon,” and the Gym Class Heroes “Clothes Off,” featuring fursuiters (furries who wear the costumes), it seems furry animals have made their way into mainstream media. While it is true that Furry Fandom appears on the surface to be a purely visual interest, furries have started using music to express their furry creativity. Songs such as Miike Snow’s “Animal” features lyrics about changing shapes, and a music video showcasing furry giraffe heads, and have become theme songs for Bay Area furries.

“It speaks to a lot of furries because it is all about changing who you are,” says Oakland resident Erin Merit, 27. “Changing your outward appearance just to be an animal.”

Merit, known by his fursona “Neonbunny”, hosts and performs at Frolic on every second Saturday of the month and is also the co-founder of the FUR camp event at Burning Man.  Also known as DJ Neonbunny, is known in the  Bay Area furry community for his upbeat music that many have pranced and danced to at local meetups. A favorite from his playlist is his rendition of the popular rave song, “Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat,” where he replaces “Rave” with “Fursuit” and modifies the lyrics to relate to the furry lifestyle.

“Right now I’m working on one with a lot of music from a cartoon show called “Gumball,” which is about a cat and his rabbit sister and walking fish brother,” says Merit.

FURSUITERS

Fursuiting has become the most identifying aspect of the fandom for those not a part of it. The fandom did not start out with fursuits everywhere, but the suits have grown as the fandom has. A 2005 survey by the UC Davis Psychology Department found that only eighteen percent of the fandom actually owned a full fursuit. Cost is a big factor. Full fursuits can range from a few hundred to up to ten thousand dollars for high quality ones. While there are many professional fursuit makers, most costume makers are amateurs.

“I was really creeped out by fursuits at first,” says Wilson, who has made eight fursuits, but has yet to make one for herself. “Back then they were not as high quality as they are now, but I eventually had a friend teach me how to make them.”

Most furries are known by their fursonas online, so when it comes to conventions and actually meeting other furries in person, the fursuit can give them confidence and a sort of transformative power to socialize with ease.

“If someone is really shy, the fursuit can act as a layer of emotional protection that allows the person to interact more comfortably and become the confident person they want to be,” says Wilson. “The confidence found when wearing a suit can really change a person, and I think that confidence eventually bleeds over for many people into their everyday life.”

Hayward resident and co-founder of the Further Confusion convention Corey “Chairo” Strom, has been building fursuits for over fifteen years.

Strom projected the average suit to consist of eighty percent faux fur, fifteen percent foam, and five percent for everything else, including glue, thread, and spandex, but every fursuit maker has their own method. Some ambitious artists have even added machinery to the workings such as wagging tails and blinking eyes to give a greater animal effect.

When crafting their fantasy personas, furries are likely to identify with animal traits that they find to be consistent with their own, or desired, inner personality. Not surprisingly, the majority of fursonas and fursuits are canine or feline, illustrating a strong connection to pets. Once becoming closer to their fursonas, it is not unusual for furries to mix multiple animals together to create something completely new.

“She is ninety percent wolf, five percent fox, and five percent border collie,” says Andrews when describing her spunky white and turquoise fursuit personality.

Of course, the fandom is not foreign to sex. There is an alternative fraction of the fandom who do very much use their fursuits for sexual arousal. Truth is, altering the suits to make them apt for sex is not a such daunting task. Add a zipper and there you go, sex can convene anytime, anywhere.

San Francisco is and will always be known for its liberal activism and resident diversity. The Bay Area furries are fortunate to be centered in a city where they can congregate in peace and acceptance, and not be ridiculed for running around in fursuits.

San Francisco is also known for being a hub of creativity and vision. All forms of art can be found scattered throughout the Bay Area.  It is no wonder that so many furries live in the Bay or travel long distances for the local furry meetups.

*Name has been changed to protect subject’s identity

Inside Noise Pop 2014

By Xpress Mag Staff

Fans mingle while listening to DJs, viewing photos and drinking at the Noise Pop Opening Night Party: Punk Rock Fancy hosted at the Noise Pop headquarters, the NWBLK, located at 1999 Bryant St. Tuesday, Feb. 25.

Fans mingle while listening to DJs, viewing photos and drinking at the Noise Pop Opening Night Party: Punk Rock Fancy hosted at the Noise Pop headquarters, the NWBLK, located at 1999 Bryant St. Tuesday, Feb. 25.

Bob Mould performs a DJ set at the Noise Pop Opening Night Party: Punk Rock Fancy hosted at the Noise Pop headquarters, the NWBLK, located at 1999 Bryant St. Tuesday, Feb. 25.

Bob Mould performs a DJ set at the Noise Pop Opening Night Party: Punk Rock Fancy hosted at the Noise Pop headquarters, the NWBLK, located at 1999 Bryant St. Tuesday, Feb. 25.

Written by Nadine Quitania

Photos by Tony Santos

In the Bay Area, the Noise Pop Festival is not only for new music discoveries, (the opening bands this year were insane) but also love and respect for the ones that have been around for much longer. Organizers also show their appreciation for everyone evolved in the festival – from poster artists to their photographers, and the volunteers looked like they had it pretty sweet too.

There’s no doubt that music beats at the heart of Noise Pop, but I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing to cohesively tie the festival into a nice, pretty package.

Pre-festivities started with Courtney Barnett wrapping up her US tour playing for a sold-out show at the Rickshaw Stop with Fever the Ghost, Kins, and Rich Girls. The opening night party at the NWBLK the next day was just that – a party. People mingled and got their drink on while Bob Mould, Shepard Fairey, and Jello Biafra took turns at the DJ booth, with anime playing on the screen behind them.

The crowd and photographers at the Fillmore were getting antsy while the crew was setting up the stage and making sure all the instruments were ready to go for Lord Huron after the Superhumanoids set. Their set included tracks from their debut album Lonesome Dreams, and several others, keeping the energy high and the crowd movin’ throughout the night.

DJ Aaron Axelson filled in the time between sets, easing the restless crowd waiting for ASTR and Broods to start at Rickshaw Stop on Thursday night. For a late start, his sick mixes kept people busy.  Adam Pallin of ASTR appeared first to get the show started, with Zoe Silverman showing up after, bringing loads of energy with her badass attitude. The duo played songs from their Varsity EP and a cover of Drake’s “Hold on We’re Going Home.”

“Operate that shit!” one crowd member yelled,  when Silverman announced they would be playing their last song, which indeed turned out to be their track titled “Operate.”

Broods, the brother-sister duo from New Zealand was on the second stop of their short US tour when they played to the packed house after the ASTR set. James Mataio accompanied the pair on drums, joining them on tour.

“We love San Fran. It reminds us a little of home,” Georgia Nott says to the excited crowd.

The set was short but sweet due to their unfinished album, which is set to be released at the end of the year and is halfway completed, according to Caleb.. They played songs from their EP, a cover of Empire of the Sun’s “We are the People,” along with a solo track from Georgia.  There’s no doubt the Nott siblings are going to blow up in the future.

Art

Co-founder of San Franpsycho, Christian Routzen silk screen prints a t-shirt at the "Women Who Rock" photo gallery opening reception, hosted at San Franpsycho, located at 505 Divisadero St. Friday, Feb. 28.

Co-founder of San Franpsycho, Christian Routzen silk screen prints a t-shirt at the “Women Who Rock” photo gallery opening reception, hosted at San Franpsycho, located at 505 Divisadero St. Friday, Feb. 28.

This year’s festival was lacking in the usual amounts of art, which was missed by those attending the show. San Franpsycho, on Divisadero, was the place to be this year, before Real Estate’s gig up the street at The Independent. The store has worked with Noise Pop in the past housed the “Women Who Rock” photography show this year. Photos of singer Charity Rose Thealin, of The Head and the Heart, Thao, St.Vincent, and Alexis Krauss from Sleigh Bells were some of the works on display.

Co-owner Christian Routzen screenprinted a limited-edition print by Paige Parsons, a Noise Pop photographer, on t-shirts brought in by customers, with the print even making it onto a pillow, done by Andy Olive, the other owner of the shop. Photos on display from previous festivals ranged from $75-$325, all done by Noise Pop photographers

The setting at the NWBLK for Yours Truly’s “The Days are Short and the Nights are Yours” exhibition set the mood for the intimate affair with its co-founders, Will and Bob, sharing the history and evolution with back stories to the music videos screened and how they’ve evolved. Photographs of artists they’ve worked with, letters, and postcards papered one wall. Several video screened included Lee Fields, Willis Earl Beal, Mikal Cronin, Little Dragon, Chairlift, and an exclusive screening with Moses Sumney. Sumney, who opened for Dr. Dog at the Warfield, made a guest appearance to talk about how he heard about Yours Truly and presented a brand new video he worked on with Yours Truly. The video is now online.

Noise Pop ended as it began, but bigger – literally. With the right side of the NWBLK was opened for the closing party, that left more floor space for the DJ Dials and Machinedrum set who closed out the festival. From virtual unknowns to the festival guests, new fans can gain their early-adopter points by now saying “I saw them at Noise Pop,” when the band makes it big.

 Film Review:

Mistaken For Strangers

Despite the inclimate weather, fans weren’t deterred from flocking to the Roxie Theater for the sold-out screening of the Mistaken For Strangers documentary, directed by Tom Berninger. Described primarily as a film about the band The National, it’s more than that.

The documentary focuses on the relationship of the Berninger brothers when Tom was invited by Matt (lead singer of The National) to join them on tour as a crewmember. Featuring music and videos from the tour in Europe, the documentary shows Tom’s journey to completing the film. We witness Matt play the big brother role trying to keep Tom focused. “My brother gave me a gift with this film and I hope I was able to give him one back,” Tom said, when introducing the film.

Mistaken for Strangers will leave you in hysterics–when it’s not bringing you to tears. You don’t have to be a fan of The National to enjoy this film, which premieres in theaters and in iTunes on Mar. 28.

 

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